Top 5 kids’ films for this summer

…The cinema! Yey! Here we offer you a selection of the upcoming films to entertain your little monsters. Think of the bribing possibilities! Our writers here at Best For Film have already been treated to a feast of family fun over the past few weeks, with movies such as Shrek Forever After, The Karate Kid, Cats & Dogs 2: The Revenge of Kitty Galore and, of course, the magical Toy Story 3. We have cast our judgmental eyes over these gems and now the time has come to turn our heads towards August’s new releases, predicting what wonders, if any, lie ahead. Can anything top the joy of Slinky Dog and Mr Potato Head? Surely not!

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – Released 11/08/2010

This action-comedy inspired by the ‘mop and bucket’ sequence in Walt Disney’s beloved Fantasia (yes, I’m humming the tune too), has had mixed reviews so far. The trailer sets a menacing tone and promises plenty of action in the line of strange beasts, fire bolts and car flips. Not to mention Nicholas Cage with a decidedly ‘hobo-ish’ mess of hair! If nothing else, the kids might be inspired by the scene in which a wizard puts a messy room to rights in a matter of seconds!

The action takes place in modern day Manhattan. Master Sorcerer Balthazar Blake (Cage) is in search of an apprentice and happens upon a seemingly average teenage boy, Dave. Dave is recruited for a mission to help defend the City from malevolent wizard, Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina) and ultimately prove himself as the rightful successor to the legendary wizard, Merlin. It seems that the film is weaknened by its focus on a sappy romance between the teenage nerd and his childhood friend, Becky. But every film requires a little slush, right?

This is Cage’s seventh time working under producer Jerry Bruckheimer, so you’d hope that the pair might have cracked the combination to a box-office hit by now! Under the pressure of taking on a Disney classic, the cast are reported to hold up as well as the stunning effects.

Essentially, a simple tale with a central concept which has appealed to children for generations – Magic!

The Last Airbender – 13/08/2010

A trailer which reveals a twelve year old boy performing some fancy stick maneuvers surrounded by a ring of burning candles, does not bode well for our impressionable youngsters. I have a frightening image of little boys everywhere whirling Daddy’s golf clubs about in their hooded towel dressing gowns, much to the peril of the kitchen china.

This fantasy film follows the journey of Aang, a young successor to an ancient line of fearless Avatars. He must put aside his childish ways and risk everything in a feat to prevent the Fire nation from enslaving the Water, Earth and Air nations. This ‘battle of the elements’ concept sounds promising, right? But the critics have had a less than inspired response.

Reviews have observed that, while the special effects are impressive, the plot is difficult to follow, the script is laughable and the characters are not developed. Not the recipe for a tantrum-free afternoon then!

The appearance of Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) brings a hint of credibility to the film, and if your karate kid goes crazy for punches, kicks and jumps of any description, then this may be the one for you. Otherwise, let’s move on…

Tinkerbell and the Great Fairy Rescue – 13/08/2010

Here’s one for the girls! Our favourite winged minx is back with a brand new tale. Not much has been said about the film so far, but in depth analysis is not really required here.

While flying along in a sunny meadow, as you do in fairyland, Tinkerbell is captured by Lizzie, a little girl in need of a friend. Fairy pals, who have all the attitude of modern day school girls, plan a rescue mission. But Tink forms a dangerous bond with Lizzie and is spellbound by her unshaken belief in fairies. Dun, dun duuuun….

It’s as simple as that. At least with this one we can be sure that the kids, and let’s face it ourselves, won’t be getting lost in plot complexities. The only scare that the film may administer is an expensive trip to the Disney Store.

Definitely a treat for the younger princesses out there.

Marmaduke – 18/08/2010

We’ve all wondered about that giant stuffed dog hanging around our local cinemas recently. All will become clear with the release of Marmaduke, a film based on the long running children’s comic strip.

Essentially, you can expect a repeat version of Mean Girls with a Great Dane in the place of Lindsey Lohan. The loveable Marmaduke (Owen Wilson) moves with his family from rural Kansas to the sunny beaches of California. Here he meets a new breed of pooches and, in typical American high-school style, is faced with an army of jocks, cheerleaders, drama geeks and bullies. It isn’t long before Marmaduke falls for a beautiful dog named Jezebel (Fergie), who has an unfortunate attachment to a rather violent and controlling mutt. Matters are predictably complicated by mongrel Mazie, who holds her own bone for the slobbering Dane.

Critics have swarmed in to blast the film’s mechanical plot and many have deemed its saturation with pop culture gags as a desperate and tired attempt at humour. Despite this, the clever use of genuine animals rather than computer simulations has been praised.

I think that kids will be amused by elements of this film, with an impromptu doggy surfing contest being difficult to resist. It could be a case of hit or miss with this tale, in which the popular kids become the pedigrees.

The Illusionist – 20/08/2010

We’ve truly saved the best till last here. Good job too, as a few weeks into the summer holidays is when the cracks can really start to show!

Just when I was starting to think that animation had completely surrendered to the rotten hands of computer generation and 3D, this rare gem flew over from France to save the day. The trailer boasts images of water-colour style painted settings and quirkily drawn little figures, through which the hand of the illustrator can be vividly detected. There’s a real wholesome and atmospheric feel to this historic tale set in 1950s Scotland.

The British-French animation tells the story of a struggling illusionist whose life changes when he meets a young woman who is convinced that he is a real magician. The script, written by Jacques Tati, is somewhat autobiographical and explores the relationship between a father and his daughter. Not a talking animal or bland romance in sight – what a relief!

People have already gone crazy for The Illusionist, which premiered recently at the Edinburgh Film Festival. It has been described as a ‘tender and contemplative’ picture that strikes a delicate balance between tragedy and light-hearted comedy. The film has minimal dialogue, which only serves to enhance its poetic charm.

Here is a happy medium for children and guardians alike. I begin my search now for a willing brat to accompany me on this mission.

So there you have it, a little taster of what’s to come this summer. With most cinemas offering great discounts for children’s tickets, a trip can serve as both a welcome and affordable time out. Do a good deed to help stressed out mums and dads everywhere and treat your little brother, sister, nephew, niece, cousin, sprout you baby-sit or whoever the heck you can find to one of these kiddy-proof films. Form your own opinions and let us know what you think…

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